The Band Room

Volume 123, No. 8September, 2023

Bill Crow

Rick Faulkner posted this on Facebook:

I recently played a memorial for a family friend. Being that she and her husband were from New Orleans and the husband is a musician, she requested that a second line be held in her memory. He reached out to me to see if I could help, since I do that kind of thing a lot. I called my people (most of them actually from New Orleans) to do our usual brass band thing. I wasn’t sure how people were going to react (it was New Jersey, not NOLA), but within a few notes the entire hall was up on their feet and parading around the room, waving white handkerchiefs.

After a couple songs, my wife left the dancing and joined in on tambourine. (She is longtime professional, with a doctorate in flute performance, and is very serious about small percussion, which she is often called on to play.) Eventually she handed the tambourine off to my daughter, also a highly skilled musician. We’ve had our kids playing this kind of music since birth, so I knew she could do it right.

Suddenly I became aware that something was amiss. I looked over and saw that an older guy that I didn’t know had taken the tambourine from my daughter, and was playing it squarely on 1 and 3, looking at her as if he was correcting her. I saw my wife take it back from him, and some heated discussion ensued.

Afterwards, I got more details on what transpired. The guy had somehow managed to get drunk between the funeral service and the reception. My wife informed him that 1) you should never touch another musician’s instrument during a performance, especially if it’s not your gig, and 2) he was playing on 1 and 3. Him: No, I wasn’t. Her: Yes, you were. Him: I have a degree in music. Her: I have three. Him: Well, good for you. Her: Yeah, good for me, and I’M not playing on 1 and 3…” (And it went on from there).

At one point he even tried to enlist the bereaved husband in support of his case (“Tell her I know where 2 and 4 are.”) Later he veered from saying that my daughter was wrong and he was correcting her, to saying, “Well, maybe I got off, but I couldn’t hear very well” (with a 5-piece brass band at full volume?).

Otherwise, it all went very well, I got a lot of positive response afterwards, and the husband was effusive in his thanks. My wife’s take: “I managed to restrain myself from punching an old man in the face at my friend’s funeral, so, it was a good day.”


Many years ago, Fred Weinberg was assigned by his junior high school music teacher in Brooklyn to play a string bass. He liked it, and he saved his after-school money and bought a Kay bass of his own. Then he and some friends started a band. On the way to his first gig, he got on the subway and was stopped by a cop. “Where are you going with that?” he asked. “Do you have a pass for that bass?” Fred had never heard of such a thing, but the cop gave him a ticket anyway.

When Fred took the ticket to the downtown Brooklyn address on it, he went up to the desk and told the lady there that he wanted to pay his ticket, and he wanted a bass pass. There was amusement among the clerks in the office, and the lady told Fred to wait a few minutes. She went away for a while, and then came back with a sheet of paper that read: “Bass fiddle pass #1.” Of course, Fred was never again asked to show his pass.


Neal Miner told me that one day in Brooklyn, he was walking up the subway stairs to the street with his bass on his back. It was an unusually long and steep and crowded staircase. Among the people in front of him, he saw another bass player not only carrying his bass on his back, but also carrying a huge amplifier and a side bag of some sort. Neal said, “Considering that I only had JUST my bass to carry up this staircase, all I could think of was, ‘That poor dude!’ A minute later, some guy behind me passed me by and commented, ‘You poor dude!’”


Leo Ball once told me that he and saxophonist Gene Quill once were standing, quite drunk, just off the Eighth Avenue curb late at night, trying to get a taxi. A VW passed close to Gene, who cursed the driver and gave him the finger. The VW stopped, and a very large guy got out and punched Gene in the eye, knocking him to the ground. As Gene lay there holding his eye, the guy said, “You want any more?” Gene cried out, “Not tonight, thank you!”


I got this story from Mike Lipskin:

Fred Ahlert Jr. related this to me: Harry Woods, who wrote many hit songs, was not a happy drunk. One afternoon at the bar across 49th Street from the Brill Building, Woods was busy punching out the bartender. Another songwriter quipped: “That’s Harry Woods. He wrote ‘Try a Little Tenderness.'”